New Classical Tracks

Irish-American choral recording invites us all to be merry

Desmond Earley, center, is the founding artistic director of the Choral Scholars of University College Dublin.Courtesy of artist

New Classical Tracks: Desmond Earley (extended)


December 09, 2020
New Classical Tracks: Desmond Earley

New Classical Tracks: Desmond Earley
by MPR

The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin/Irish Chamber Orchestra with Desmond Earley — Be All Merry (Signum Classics)

"Because we can't all sing the way we normally do, it is something that people can take into their homes and sit by the fire, listen and think of the reasons why we do this every year and think of each other."

Desmond Earley, the conductor of the Choral Scholars of University College Dublin, is hopeful about their latest recording, Be All Merry.

"This is our third recording, with Signum Classics in London. It's the first recording where we're joined by another ensemble. The Irish Chamber Orchestra partnered with us on this particular recording. And of course, it is a holiday disc.

"We wanted to record some familiar numbers. But then give something truffle-esque or dark chocolate, as well, that's going to be more of an adventurous taste. We open with In Dulci Jubilo, which is a lovely setting by a Minnesota-based composer, Matthew Culloton."

What is special about this arrangement of this carol?

"Well, it's really fresh and it's quite groovy. It has a sort of syncopated feel and you find yourself (or at least I did) sort of moving your hips to it a little bit. It also gives each singing line a chance to shine. I really particularly liked that about it and it goes through a number of harmonic changes."

Linda Kachelmeier is another Minnesota-based composer featured on this recording. Can you talk about her composition We Toast the Days?

"The great thing about this piece is that the text really struck me as something that was quite resonant at the moment during COVID lock-down. It looks to a future of hope. I'll just quote her text here, 'As we stand on the edge of another bright New Year. I take your hand in mine with assurance of the courage we will find and the hope that leads us on.'"

You've created several of the arrangements on this recording including a traditional Irish prayer, The Adoration of the Magi. It features violin, which sets an incredible mood right at the start.

"Well, this is my favorite piece on the disc. It's a piece, set to a poem by the Irish writer W.B. Yates, by the Oregon-based composer Timothy Stevens. An American composer has just set the Irish language here, and it sits really naturally."

Track 6 was written by the composer of the Wexford Carol, which then flows into that carol. Can you talk about those two pieces and how beautifully interconnected they are?

"So, the composer of Suantrai — which literally translated means "lullaby," is a very tender, loving lullaby, sung from the perspective of the mother. Then I rolled it into the Wexford Carol, and one of our alumni, Marc Waters, is actually from Wexford!"


The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin/Irish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Desmond Earley — Be All Merry (Amazon)
The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin (official site)
Irish Chamber Orchestra (official site)
Desmond Earley (official site)